New Parents 101

Build A No-Fail Maternity Wardrobe
“When dressing your new pregnant silhouette, don’t try and squeeze into your pre-pregnancy bottoms, or wear your husband’s oversized shirts. It never works,” advises Rebecca Matthias, president and chief creative officer of the maternity clothing company Destination Maternity. “In order to look and feel your best, it’s important to shop for maternity fashions that fit your changing body. It’s the most exciting nine months of your life!” A well-fitted maternity bra is a must, as are black pants that can take you from work to evening. No worries about finding pants that don’t quite fit right either: try Secret Fit Belly bottoms (available on Destination Maternity’s website, www.motherhood.com), which come in various styles—from jeans to cropped khakis—  and are equipped with a patent-pending seamless belly panel. Finally, remember a casual dress for date night and some lingerie for afterwards. As Matthias says, “You’re pregnant and sexier than ever!” —Nancy O’Brien Bastock  

Get A Great Diaper Bag
When shopping for a diaper bag, consider four main components, says Ellen Diamant, co-founder and design director of the parenting gear store Skip Hop. The most important element is the bag’s organizational features: you’ll want lots of pockets and compartments so contents don’t “become a jumbled mess and everything has its place,” says Diamant. Because “their stroller is basically their car,” city parents also benefit from a stroller attachment, which allows you to quickly fasten a diaper bag to the stroller and give weary shoulders a break. A durable, good-looking material that cleans easily also makes life less complicated; be sure to find a bag you can wipe down with a cloth. Also, in terms of design, consider a unisex fashion look, so Dad can feel comfortable wearing Mom’s bag. One such example, the Via Messenger (pictured here), features 18 pockets and a shoulder pad for extra support. Plus, an added tip on what to stash inside: a mini, portable plastic bag dispenser for when you’re faced with a messy diaper and no trash can in sight (available at www.knotabag.com). —Nancy O’Brien Bastock  

Research Toy Recalls
As a new parent, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of recent toy recalls. One website that helps is HealthyToys.org, which offers some basic buying tips. First, think less is more: fewer toys mean fewer worries for toxins. Next, avoid plastic whenever possible, particularly #3 plastics or anything that lists “vinyl” or “PVC” in its ingredients. Better to go for fabric, unpainted wood, cloth, or plush toys. Finally, check updated recall lists yourself, which you can access through web sites like HealthyToys.org, Parenting.com, and cpsc.gov, the web site for the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. In the toy aisle and need immediate feedback? MomsRising.org sponsors a unique service: simply text “healthytoys” and the toy name to 41411 and receive instant feedback that lets you know if the toy contains high levels of certain potentially dangerous chemicals.  —Nancy O’Brien Bastock  

Have a Happy First Haircut
A child’s first haircut can be a scary experience—or a delightful, treasured one. Parents have a lot to do with how their child feels. “Sometimes parents are emotional because their child looks a bit older,” says Cozy Friedman, founder of Cozy’s Cuts for Kids, a salon-cum-toy-store. “Kids pick up on parents’ anxiety.” Celebrating the haircut puts little ones at ease: take pictures and videos, keep a lock of hair in a scrapbook, and give your child a small treat at the end. Thoughtful planning helps: schedule the haircut at a good time for your child (e.g., not during nap time), request a stylist who enjoys working with kids, take your child to see you get a haircut the week before, and bring a spare T-shirt in case your child is averse to the cape. Another tip is, interestingly, not to call it a “haircut.” “Every time kids are exposed to the word ‘cut,’ it’s in a negative light,” Friedman notes. Fun distractions like a book or toy are key. And, at Cozy’s, stylists use kid-friendly terms, including “Mr. Wind” for the hairdryer and saying “Here comes the rain” when applying water or hairspray. —Marisa Suescun  

Find The Perfect Kid’s Class
The first thing to look for is a great instructor, says Natalie Cronin Reyes, childhood development director at Kidville. Classes for newborns to age six months require someone with a child development background familiar with how babies are changing physically and what positions are safe to put them in. Older kids respond best to teachers with “an enticing voice” who are lively and engaging and adapt well to the flow of the class. There’s no “right” class type: music, art, and gym, to name a few, are all excellent. “Every child is different and parents should look for something they enjoy doing together,” says Cronin Reyes. “If a parent plays an instrument, they may love taking a music class with their child.” Children under two need no more than one class a day; for older kids, families should consider their schedule and balance classes with play dates. Not all kids love a class off the bat. “Some kids are slow to warm up but by the third week they may be surprising you,” says Cronin Reyes. Whatever class you choose make sure it’s in a facility that’s clean and safe—especially when it comes to toddlers who love to crawl around and explore. —Leah Black 

Install a Car Seat…Correctly
What seems like a simple task isn’t so straightforward: 80 percent of car seats are installed improperly, according to Steve Wallen, a father of two and the general manager of the car seat manufacturer SafeGuard. He offers a few pointers to make sure your child is buckled in safe. First, infants should be in a rear facing car seat in the back seat until they are at least 1 year old or 22 pounds. Second, kids should stay in 5 point harness (2 shoulder straps, 2 lap straps, and a crotch strap) for as long as possible, up to 65 pounds. Parents shouldn’t be able to slip more than two fingers between the harness and their child’s body, and once in place, a car seat should move no more than an inch from side to side. Finally, the best car seats offer ease of use and function with the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system, which is present in most vehicles and allows one to adjust a car seat easily. Parents who would like additional guidance should seek out a certified child passenger technician (CPS), found at local police or fire stations. —Leah Black 

Find A Pediatrician You Love

Thorough research is the key to finding a good pediatrician, advises Dr. Peter Tesler, Chief of Pediatrics for the Manhattan’s Physician Group. First, consider geography: living too far away from your doctor can add unnecessary stress when you’re already worried about your sick child. Second, investigate a physician’s availability. Will you be able to see your doctor (nearly) every time that you visit? If he is on vacation, is there adequate backup? Also, learn the office’s policies on walk-in or same-day sick visits, and find out whether there is a 24/7 call mechanism in place so that you can always seek medical advice. (Remember, for real emergencies, call 911 or go directly to the hospital.) Third, schedule a prenatal interview to get a feel for the facilities as well as the pediatrician. What you are seeking is a “treatment partner”; someone who will really work with you and will address your concerns, whether you have a question about information that you read over the internet or you are seeking relief after four sleepless nights with a teething child. “I don’t think anybody’s born knowing completely how to raise a child and raise a newborn,” says Tesler, so you need to find someone not only “who can handle things medically” but can also give you guidance on the “day-to-day, week-to-week” challenges. A great place to start your search: word of mouth. —Nancy O’Brien Bastock  

Q&A With Local Experts
Your Questions, Their Answers

What’s an important aspect of pregnancy and delivery you think parents-to-be often overlook as they prepare their birth plan?
Everyone should talk to their doctor ahead of time and make sure they are on the same page. Ask questions. A lot of times as moms get closer to their due date, they hear things like, “We might induce you” or “The baby is too big, you might need a c-section.” Talk to your doctor about a birth plan: Do you want an epidural or a drug -free birth? Do you want to be moving or squatting during labor? Do you want a doula at your birth? What is the doctors c-section and episiotomy rate? Things can change at any minute but it’s good to discuss an ideal situation with your doctor and also have a vision of what you want your birth experience to be like. —Janet Markovits, founder, The Pregnant New Yorker

What are new parent support groups, and why are they a good idea?
At Soho Parenting, all of our groups share a unique combination of focus, spending an equal time talking about the babies and the parents. The Mother Infant group offers practical, hands-on advice: we discuss sleep, feeding, physical, emotional and language development. For the “mom” topics, we include a session on the changes that take place in your marriage, work and motherhood, your changing body, and how your own childhood effects how you enter this new role as parent. But what I feel is best about these groups is really the intimate relationships that are forged. Many of the women report that the early friendships they make here are the ones that stick for years. And the children often keep their “extended family” friendships with the other kids. —Jean Kunhardt, co-founder, Soho Parenting

What are the advantages of using a nanny placement service versus finding childcare through referral or an online bulletin board?
One of the main advantages is families are meeting nannies that have already been pre-screened that are true working, professional nannies. The agency is trained in identifying career nannies as well as performs duties such as meeting the nanny, calling and checking all references and conducting face-to-face interviews before the client meets them. It’s invaluable, as for every one great nanny, you have to meet 20 “not-so-hot” ones, and very few families have the time, endurance and know-how to do so. Most important of all, the agency performs full criminal background checks on all hired nannies—this is all-too-often overlooked when not going through a professional agency. —Douglas Kozinn, co-founder, Absolute Best Care

How can parents save money on diapers?
With two kids still in diapers, I’d be lost without Diapers.com! This site lets me order boxes of diapers in bulk and delivers them to my building for free. No lugging bulky overpriced packages from the store every few days. Even better, the site carries tons of other diapering essentials too. Tip: order Costco’s Kirkland brand wipes. One box holds nine 100-count packages of unscented hypoallergenic wipes made from environmentally-friendly Tencel and is far cheaper than similar brand-name options. —Robin Saks Frankel, founder, Crib Notes

When should parents start sleep training and how can they find the confidence to stick with it?
It’s never too late to start sleep teaching, but it can be too early. We recommend parents wait until a child is around four months of age, when most healthy babies can learn to sleep through the night without eating, and have the ability to self-soothe. The best way to stay on track: pick a sleep teaching method both parents not only believe in, but fully understand. This way, no one is leading or following. If parents are in lock step they can encourage each other along the way. Before sleep teaching, parents should sit down together to write down the reasons they’ve decided to sleep teach. Then, put the list up on the refrigerator. If things get tough during the process they can look back on the list they made at a more rational point in time and glean some confidence. —Conner Herman and Kira Ryan, co-founders, Dream Team Baby: Infant and Toddler Sleep Consultation

What should parents think about when putting together a registry?
Most people think of their baby registry as a list of gift suggestions, but it can also serve an important function in helping you plan your nursery. Think of it as your master list. Not only does it let you think through everything you need, but a store with good registry support will help you put together the list that’s right for you. No one should be offended if you put up a complete list that includes everything from car seats to nail clippers. And doing so means you’ll avoid the three biggest pitfalls of registries from a gift-giver’s point of view: not having enough for your registrants to select; not having enough choices in every price range so everyone can find something in their budget; and not having a good balance of fun and practical items. Some people are afraid they’ll offend people by including expensive items like a stroller, but the only thing that will offend people is if that’s all you include. And remember, most businesses allow you to close out your registry with some type of savings (at giggle you get a one-time discount of 10% off whatever items you registered for but didn’t receive). —Ali Wing, founder, giggle

What are some tips for having your child’s first portrait taken?
It’s so important to document your baby’s different stages because they change and grow so quickly. A photo shoot should be fun! When planning for your first family shoot, the most important thing is to relax and enjoy it. Kids can sense when you’re nervous and this won’t produce the best results. Find a photographer who you feel comfortable with and who will bring out your child’s organic expressions in a playful, natural way. A great idea is to bring your little Flip video recorder and get some moving shots to document your first shoot. Then you’re double-documenting. —Heidi Green, founder, Heidi Green Photography

How should parents go about ensuring their home is childproof?
The majority of serious in-home injuries to children are caused by fire, suffocation, drowning, firearms, falls, choking and poisoning. Now the good news: These accidents are mostly preventable! Here are just a few of the precautions every parent should take when bringing home their newborn: 1. Use a crib made since 1992 that meets safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Material (ASTM). If one is not available, make sure the slats on the crib should be 2 3/8 inches apart or less so baby’s head doesn’t get trapped between them; 2. Cover every electrical outlet in your home with a child-resistant outlet cover (the plastic plugs are easy to pry out); 3. Have at least two fire extinguishers in the home. Place one extinguisher in the kitchen and one in the master bedroom; 4. Shorten drapery and blind cords. Loose and low lying blind cords can become strangulation hazards; 5. Secure bookshelves, entertainment centers, audio/video equipment, and bureaus to walls since they can topple onto children and cause major injury and death. — James Hirtenstein, Owner and Founder, Baby-Safe